Amid storms of suffering and hardship, we often see soft flashes of light: things that make us happy, give us hope, fill us with appreciation. Sometimes we’re reluctant to celebrate these glimmerings, lest we seem indifferent to the distress and anguish all around us. Still, our hearts are big enough to hold many emotions at once, aren’t they? In fact, that’s normal. So let’s not be afraid to express our gratitude for the proverbial silver linings in our dark clouds, or even to joke about them. Gratefulness and humor can help us meet and overcome adversity.
In that spirit, I’ve set down this rather light-hearted list of 45 silver linings I’ve found in the clouds of my pandemic isolation. (Forty-five was an arbitrary cut-off point. Otherwise, I’d still be writing.)
1. Since I scarcely go anywhere, I don’t have to worry anymore about misplacing my car keys or my wallet.
2. I’ve picked up the clarinet again after not playing since high school. (I’m not sure that my family regards this as a blessing.)
3. I’m growing more houseplants and haven’t killed them all yet. (Only a couple.)
4. Our home is now more like a sanctuary than a pit stop between activities.
5. I’m basking in the immensity of my relative solitude. (Yes, I’m an introvert by nature.)
6. Shopping almost exclusively online has freed me from the chore of store-shopping.
7. I regularly splurge on comfort foods that I rarely used to eat. (Hmm … is that a good thing? Maybe that should be on a different list.)
8. Our family cats are reveling in our constant company and more frequent treats.
9. My brief calls from telemarketers now end with a genuine exchange of good wishes for each other’s health.
10. I no longer take the U.S. Postal Service for granted. (Or my hair stylist. Or my trash collector. Or my doctor.)
11. I can now tell the difference between vegetables and weeds in the garden.
12. I’m discovering which friends and neighbors love fresh tomatoes and squash and those who can’t eat cucumbers or spicy peppers.
13. Our house is cleaner because we’re disinfecting more often.
14. When I must leave the house, I can show my respect for others simply by wearing a mask.
15. Behind my mask, I’m learning to smile with my eyes and through my voice.
16. My husband and I are figuring out that there are some movies we do like to watch together.
17. I can now Zoom in something other than a car.
18. I have virtual front row seats to all kinds of musical performances and literary events that I wouldn’t get to attend otherwise. (I can also duck out early without feeling like a louse.)
19. I’m getting acquainted with my white fragility and challenging myself to more actively build racial justice.
20. I’m saving a ton of money on make-up, seldom wearing it anymore.
21. I now remember why, two decades ago, I switched from long hair to short.
22. My professional wardrobe now consists of pajamas, old T-shirts, shorts or sweatpants, and walking shoes.
23. I conduct all of my business from the comfort of a couch.
24. I’m not living out of suitcases and hotel rooms, though this is my prime season for speaking engagements and book festivals.
25. Commuting to public appearances now involves walking to my couch and logging onto my computer.
26. My troublesome shoulders don’t ache from lugging boxes of books to my public appearances. (That’s fortunate, since I’m not risking a pandemic massage.)
27. My feet and back aren’t sore from standing for hours at author events. (Ditto the massage.)
28. Without my usual business trips, I’m spending less money on gasoline and reducing my carbon footprint.
29. I can now eat garlic right before a (virtual) author talk without worrying about my breath.
30. I’ve virtually toured amazing museums in faraway places that I’ll never visit in person.
31. I’m investing far less time in social media and am lighter for it.
32. After lying dormant for 40 or more years, my love for writing poetry (not just reading it) has reawakened with a jolt.
33. Kind messages in chalk now decorate many of our neighborhood’s sidewalks.
34. My son has been whipping up his specialties in the kitchen, including cheesecake, vindaloo, and guacamole. (No, not all for the same meal).
35. I’m deepening my already close relationship with my mother, quarantined in an assisted-living facility half a continent away. We now talk by phone or video chat at least once a day.
36. I’ve progressed to Level Three in my Spanish lessons on Duolingo.
37. I now have another excuse—COVID brain fog—for always forgetting things. (How can I remember Spanish?)
38. I have endless opportunities to channel my anxieties into creativity.
39. I’m finding uncommon ways to support people who are grieving, since I can’t be with them physically.
40. Because more people are reading books, I’m selling more books and can contribute more to my son’s college fund.
41. I’m having more wonderful correspondence than ever with readers of my work.
42. I bought a hula-hoop and can now keep it endlessly spinning. (Next, mastering the art of walking while hooping.)
43. Our busy street has less traffic, less noise, and seemingly less pollution.
44. I’ve made focaccia and other breads for the first time (and loved it).
45. I’ve gotten a glimpse of what my dear husband might be like in retirement. (Just kidding, sweetie.)
Maybe this playful list of my silver linings will inspire you to brainstorm your own. Care to share?